Item 1253 - Speech by President Nelson Mandela at the Women's Convention and Ministers' Conference of the United Ethiopian Church of Africa

Identity area

Reference code

ZA COM MR-S-1253


Speech by President Nelson Mandela at the Women's Convention and Ministers' Conference of the United Ethiopian Church of Africa


  • 1994-09-02 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

Transcription of speech made by Mr Mandela

Context area

Name of creator

(18 July 1918-5 December 2013)

Biographical history

Archival history

Migrated from the Nelson Mandela Speeches Database (Sep-2018).

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Women's Convention and Ministers' Conference of the United Ethiopian Church of Africa

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

Related descriptions

Notes area



Archbishop Macebe;
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is a great honour indeed for me to share in the fellowship of the Women's Convention and the Ministers' Conference of the United Ethiopian Church of Africa. We attach great importance to the role of the church and other religious bodies in our society. That is why we were able to put aside many pressing issues in order to be here.

Let me first address that sector of the United Ethiopian Church which, I am sure, is the pillar of the denomination: the women. You will all be aware, as leaders of the Women's Convention, that you are meeting at a most significant time in the calendar of the international Women's Movement. As we speak thousands of women are gathered in Beijing, China. They will be assessing the situation of women in the world today and working out strategies for the complete emancipation of women.

The Beijing Conference and the resolutions that will arise out of it are not only meant for women who are prominent in public life. It is a conference for women like you I hope that your convention will take time to discuss some of the issues that confront women in South Africa. The ANC and the Government of National Unity are committed to the
emancipation of women in South Africa, But we will not achieve much if we do not have the support of organised women in the churches.

I feel very proud to be speaking to a church that is part of the Ethiopian Movement. More than a hundred years ago, it was the bed-rock on which the liberation movement was founded. We recall some cof the great names of the
Ethiopian Movement who proclaimed, with the assistance of the psalmist in Psalm 68 Verse 31, that:

"Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hand unto God"

Let us remember Nehemiah Tile, who founded the Thembu Church in 1884; Mangena Mokoena, founder of the Ethiopian Church in Pretoria in 1892; James Dwane, P.J Mzimba, H.R Ngcayiya, Jones Goduka, and Reverends Kumalo nd Mpela of the then Orange River Colony These Men and many women, whom the history books have ignored built the Ethiopian Church on the simple, but fundamental; principle that the African people had a right to determine their own religious and church organisations without the tutelage of the missionaries.

These visionaries understood that this approach also applied to how the people were governed. That is why so many became founders of political organisations that later got together to form the ANC in 1912.

The churches in South Africa under the leadership of the SACC have been re-examining their role in our new democracy. We should take note of the concept which they call "critical solidarity" which they are using to define the relationship between the churches and the new democratic government. In simpler terms critical solidarity means partnership with the government in programmes designed to advance the public good. It also means that churches are free to criticise and correct the government where they feel the government is wrong.

It seems to us that this approach can form a good basis for a new relationship between the government and the religious community.

The early leaders of the Ethiopian Movement read the signs of the times at the end of the last century and they took appropriate action. Today the leaders of the church are challenged to read the signs of our exciting times and to lead the Movement in the right direction.

One of the historical tasks facing all South Africans, is to build one rainbow nation, united and proud of its diversity. For the Ethiopian Church this means, amongst other things, the time to begin a dialogue with the Ecumenical Movement in South Africa, in order to make a contribution to that Movement. If such an engagement leads, as I believe it will, to enriching the Ecumenical Movement of South Africa with the African religious experience, we shall have done the founders of the Church great honour.

The Government of National Unity is fully committed to religious freedom in South Africa. As the ANC, we will make sure that the new Constitution fully reflects this

Firstly, that the state must not be allowed to interfere in the affairs of the church;

And secondly, that the state should not favour any particular church or religion. In other words, all churches and religions must be treated equally.

Some mischief-makers want to use our adherence to this principle to put forward an unfounded allegation that the government is hostile to the churches and to religion. There is a simple answer to these forces: it is a
strengthened Ecumenical Movement which stands in critical solidarity with the Government of National Unity.

For churches to put this new relationship with government into practice, one of the most urgent tasks which faces our country must be completed - the establishment of democratic local authorities. The lack of such authorities has been one of the main obstacles to systematic implementation of our plans for a better life for all. Democratically elected councils will give communities the power to work with government to make these plans happen where they live.

I hope you will allow me to refer to the situation in Butterworth as a lesson on the need for good local government. The collapse of interim local government in this important industrial town has already led many investors to pull out. Many jobs have been lost. It is a matter of the greatest urgency that narrow interests are put aside in the interests of the community as a whole.

Ultimately; such problems require democratically elected councils, arid communities with leaders who are ready to join hands and work together for the good of the whole community. As people of influence in your communities, you have a responsibility to work for the success of the local government elections, In so doing you will be helping to realise the far-sighted vision of those who founded the Ethiopian Movement.

Dear friends;

May I in conclusion wish the Women's Convention and the Minsiters' Conference of the United Ethiopian Church of Africa fruitful deliberations. I will keenly watch developments in teh church and I leave full of hope and optimism.

God bless you!
I thank you.

Alternative identifier(s)

Access points

Subject access points

Place access points

Name access points

Genre access points

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

Rules and/or conventions used


Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

Acquisition method: Hardcopy ; Source: ANC Archives, Office of the ANC President, Nelson Mandela Papers, University of Fort Hare. Accessioned on 22/01/2010 by Zintle Bambata




Accession area

Related subjects

Related people and organizations

Related genres

Related places